The emotion of the moment, the latest challenge, and the latest fire drill come with significant opportunity costs.

The simplest definition of opportunity costs is the time, money, and opportunity we spend and the cost of what we have given up with a decision or choice. What is the next best alternative to our current choice? Don’t forget the trick question behind what is “best.”

Every choice in life has an opportunity cost. The challenge is identifying the best return for our time, money, and JOY.

Before you raise the alarm bells and start the flurry of emails and subsequent work, PLEASE consider the opportunity costs of what you are about to do and the opportunity cost to you along with the costs to others and your organization.

Take the time to reflect and understand the course of events so far.

Consider what can be done and the costs to do so.

Don’t fall prey to the hamster wheel of urgency, outrage, and sensationalism that create negative opportunity costs.

If you remove the emotion of the moment, is this really what you would allocate your and everyone else’s time to do?


How much of what is about to be put in motion is due to ego or denial of your culpability in the current issue? Is it that big of an issue? Are you just deflecting? Is it worth the opportunity costs?


I often wonder how much the total opportunity costs would be for an organization if you could quantify them. I believe it’s a very large number. Granted, this would be based on my opinion of what the next best alternative should have been, which by no means is the absolute correct opinion. However, I strongly believe that we tend to “create” unnecessary work and often spend the available resources of both time and money on this “created” work instead of existing work or opportunities that could have a much greater payback.

It is a bit of a conundrum.

We already seem to never have enough resources for the current to-do’s, yet we continuously create additional work with knee-jerk reactions based on the moment’s emotion. It almost appears we could reduce the resources needed if we stopped creating unnecessary reactions. It appears that we could avoid future ‘urgent’ if we remained focused on the ‘important.’

There aren’t too many resources. We tend to spend the resources we have on the wrong things. The priorities are being emotionally driven instead of logically driven to best use our time and resources.

Opportunity costs are most often related to accounting and the workplace, as are the points in this post thus far, but there are opportunity costs for the choices in our personal lives.

Time: Our Biggest Asset

There are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks in a year. Managing the finite time and the psychic energy available throughout that time is undoubtedly the top asset you have to manage when considering opportunity costs and choosing what to say ‘yes’ to. The time value of money, lost experiences, and alternative outcomes are all pieces of the puzzle, but time… time is irreplaceable!

It can take a thousand No’s to get to the potentially best Yes.

Are you managing your time and saying ‘No’ enough to get to the best ‘Yes?’

The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important , and (b) you must do what’s important first.

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Urgent‘ is a human construct used to push someone’s agenda or bias on you or a result of your procrastination.

Urgent is created by your boss, your boss’s boss, your peers, your friends, your family, or your over-demanding customer whose business may not be worth the effort required.

Urgent is not necessarily important.

Urgent is the enemy of important.

When choosing what you’ll spend your time on next, ask yourself — “Is this important or unnecessarily urgent?

Unless you can answer that question with clarity and believe wholeheartedly that it is indeed important, then stay focused and move on to the next item on your list. It may become clear and important at a later date but for now, move on to the next item on your list.

If your boss is pushing their urgent over your important and you cannot convince them otherwise, you may need to give in. They are the boss.

If this is always the case — find a new boss!

Your Worst Boss Is YOU!

In more cases than not, YOU are most likely your worst boss!

YOU are focusing on the urgent instead of the Important.

YOU are not managing your time optimally.

YOU are not saying NO enough.

YOU are not delegating appropriately.

You can’t replace yourself, but you can change your process, remove emotion, say NO to the urgent and focus on the important while ensuring you are doing the same for others and not pushing your urgent over their important!

Can you imagine how productive we could be if everyone adopted a mindset of focusing on the important rather than the urgent?


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *